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by SS at 12:33 pm on Monday 22nd March

When we were on school ski trips, our teachers used to always say in our safety briefing that most accidents happen on either the first or last day of a trip because people are overconfident. Certainly this truth seemed to exhibit itself yesterday when on our first day of the second half I was hit by a truck.

The journey out of Arusha was at the peak of the Tanzanian rush hour on a Friday morning. For under ten kilometres we were riding through heavy traffic and riding the wave of adrenalin, I filtered through lines of cars, jeeps, buses and trucks with several other riders. As we approached a junction where a sideroad was joining our road, a truck was emerging slowly. It stopped, edged forwards a bit and then stopped again. Foolishly, assuming the truck had now stopped, I continued forward on our road, with right of way. The truck edged forwards again, pushing me+bike sideways onto the ground. Luckily it didn't advance any further and there was no real damage apart from a couple of bent (possibly fractured) bottle cages.

The driver of the truck came out and apologised profusely. I assume he simply didn't take notice of me. Lesson learnt and I'll yield more often to the African traffic. I took the rest of the day slowly, riding with Erin and Ruben. The paved road was to end at 80 kilometres but the TDA notes must be out of date since we happily rolled all the way to camp (105km) on some variety of pavement.

That afternoon I fixed the remaining issues with my bike, replacing the rear brake cable (oh does it feel good to have full control over the bike again) and redid my handlebar tape which has failed to cover about 20% of my handlebar since our first section of dirt in Sudan. Realising that we would have a significant amount of free time, with the help of some of the other riders, I devised a survey which we're going to ask every rider on the tour. Questions range from useful information for future riders to plain ol' information which is probably not so useful. Keep your eyes peeled for the results.

I slept for nearly 9 hours which seems to have helped my legs regain their speed. Today was a fast day and we hit the dirt road at 4.4km from camp. Thankfully it wasn't as hardcore as the Northern Kenya 'road' and my bike liked it. My body too was relatively happy with the amount of jarring through the handlebars (although I may be swapping gloves tomorrow to prevent a hole being worn into my palms). I started off early and was overtaken about 30km in by Frans (today's stage winner), Simon and Jethro. Just before lunch Gisi and Stuart overtook me.

After lunch, I was overtaken by noone, which was a welcome relief. Maintaining my pace to camp, the only annoyances of the day was the enormous dust clouds that the lorries and buses kicked up as they overtook us. Normally the clouds fade quickly but the sand or dust here is much finer than that we've seen previously. As a result, the air stays a sort of cloudy emulsion for tens of seconds, making it impossible to see (and irritating your eyes) and hard to breath. This is worsened on uneven downhills which require eyesight to navigate safely at any speed.

The second annoyance was being called a 'mzungu', Swahili for white person. I understand that the children here may not be well educated but surely they're able to distinguish between skin colour. (Perhaps mzungu is a general byword for foreigner but I'm a pedant for accuracy.)

The day was quite hilly, involving a fair climb on dirt - this counted as a mando-day, our fouth of the Tour so far. At on point the climb reached a 15% gradient and on that ascent I stood up to try and get enough power to move forwards. I slipped into a sandy rut at this point and my rear wheel lost traction. It wouldn't stop spinning enough for me to roll out of the rut and I had to unclip from my pedals quickly in order to avoid falling.

Looking at the actual ascent, it was under 1200 metres. Supposedly the ascent combined with the dirt made this stage difficult enough to be considered a mando-day. Personally, I don't find there is much difference between ascending on tarmac and on dirt - the speed difference might be a single kmph or so but proportionally this is much less. E.g., on a flat road on tarmac you could be travelling at 30kmph, versus 20kmph on dirt, a 50% speed difference. Climbing a hill, you (or I, because I suck at hills) could be doing 12kmph, versus 10kmph on dirt, a 20% speed difference.

Faith by Limp Bizkit shuffled around as I was grinding up the biggest single climb of 600 metres today, inadvertantly gifting me with a new climbing motto - 'get the f*** up'.

P.S. Happy Belated Birthday to Chirag, sorry for not sending a message sooner!

1 comment posted so far
Ash wrote at 2:28 pm on Mon 22nd Mar -
I hope you're ok from your crash with the truck. Traffic rules are generally respected fully only in developed countries. I live in San Diego close to the US-Mexican border. Just after I cross in to Mex things chnage dramatically. I don't know why. I personally like the survey you are conducting. In epic journey such as this going through different countries and terrain, the question of what to bring is an acute issue for those of us who have yet to do it. I've looked at the current as well as previous blogs. All I see ispost "my bike" or "my equipment".I took a menthal not from your writting on front suspension from earlier journal. I also saw a fairly good description of Rick Wasfy's bike

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Long Grass And Some Trucks
Long Grass And Some Trucks
Some crazy beings crawling around in the grass.
2:07 am on Saturday 20th February by SS
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